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dobu gabu maru

The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

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Map 05: "Acid Flow"

 

"Acid Flow" riffs off a few preceding maps' thematic ideas -- purple-dominant caves, color-coded key sections, gray constructs (both light-gray polymer and dark-gray nanocarbon). Visually, though, it feels like a step down. The indoors are sometimes bare or garish, and the outdoors could use sky horizons and related techniques so that all of the structures aren't exactly the same height. Here that uniformity looks more artificial than usual. 

 

As a gameplay experience, I would classify it as a mixed bag. Though mostly good, the start area is a miscue, and unfortunately, it makes up a good chunk of the map's content. Once you kill the hitscanners, you circle -- or rather, triangle -- indefinitely, and everything is harmless. The gasbags released on the 3D catwalk are neither fun nor threatening, but they also command your attention. This all feels like 'introductory fare' added for the sake of it, reminiscent of m01 and m02's beginnings. Considering that the player revisits this area twice, a natural choice is to disperse these monsters more evenly throughout later repopulations.

 

My favorite section is the blue-key fight. Leave many of the mancubi alive before picking up the blue key and you can concoct a very chaotic infighting-fueled projectile-hell fight. Just make sure to use the blue armor for that. The parkour secret prior to the red key also stands out as a notable, a fun 'jump setup' test. Most of the rest is at least okay.

 

Other bits of notes:

 

- Along the blue key path, the duo of revenants at the end of the hitscanner hallway are so close to their walkover trigger that I got punched by them simply because I was running forward. (Mappers seem to make this mistake a lot.)

 

- Not sure if the chainsaw secret is meant to be a joke.  

 

Map 06: "Clash" 

Fun stuff. "Clash" is really slick looking, and also free of any serious gameplay missteps or undercooked concepts. After a light appetizer, we're treated to two extensive key paths that contrast elegantly with one another. The blue-key route is defined by a very artful procession of skirmishes and incidental combat, a couple of larger setpieces acting as roughage. By 'artful', I mean that the deployments of monsters and the rhythms of fights tend to look really cool. It's telling that the cyber meat grinder beginning this route, while arguably the best fight in the map, felt like a distant memory by the time I surfaced again. The yellow-key route is a monstrous cavern featuring a loose assortment of rock-dwelling miscreants and periodic injections of hit squads, a large stew of conflict. If so inclined, you can hit all the triggers and visit all of the secrets before stopping to clean up. The ending is more of a denouement, a chain of breezy small-scale fights. A climactic battle would be the norm at that juncture, but the absence of one feels fine too. 

 

The main routing decision left to the player is at the fork in the huge cavern. The blue-key path gives you the plasma rifle but no rocket launcher, and the yellow-key path outfits you with a well stocked rocket launcher and secret plasma rifle but scant cells. This time, I swooped into the cavern to grab the rocket launcher and left immediately, taking it to the blue-key path, where it helped with cleanup in the first big meaty fight. I didn't find much use for the rocket launcher beyond that, however, demonstrating how well this path was built for the plasma rifle. Considering that the tougher battles are also situated along the blue-key path, it makes sense to follow the map's 'nudge' -- it is closer, after all -- and go there first, if you aren't going to opt for snatching the RL. 

 

If I were the authors, I'd use this map as an object guide to spruce up the design of the weaker maps. It is a clear cut above many of the others. Visually, that goes without saying, but there is also a persistent maturity in gameplay decisions. Nothing feels like half-baked filler.

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The schedule in the OP places map31 behind the regular maps, customary with bonus maps. There is a ZDoom surprise though: map31 is a proper secret map accessible via map06. So it should come tomorrow. 

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Map 06: Clash

 

alienated-rc2-wad-MAP06.png

 

Difficulty : medium

 

Clash is a level worthy of a 15th map, which means a particularly lengthy and adventure-oriented map without being too complicated.  Above all, as rdwpa said, there is a secret exit leading to a map located at slot 31, and it should also be noted that this map was made in pairs with Ugibugi, a totally unknown mapper for me.


The level is long. I took a total of 45 minutes without losing myself too much. Indeed, the gimmick here is to take two completely different paths in an unestablished order to obtain two keys. The passages bring the player back to the spawn (the most detailed section of the base).

 

In my opinion, the level is good but not excellent. I have several comments:

- I don't have a very powerful PC, I complained a little bit in some areas because my fps sometimes drop. Apart from that, I found some areas really overdetailed. The very first room is really the most obvious example to me, far too many colours used at once. I really enjoyed the passage to reach the blue key because the decorations were more refined.

 

- I would like to believe that the level is not intended to be very difficult, but there are really a lot of traps that I find "Cheesable". This level has great potential in terms of cooperation, however. On the other hand, as mentioned above, gameplay tends to be repetitive.

 

- I was a little disappointed with the fight with the cyberdemon at the beginning of the path to the blue key. At first, I expected to fight a transparent cyberdemon moving around the area, but eventually we face a classic cyberdemon, which can't move from its compartment. Too bad, there was a way to make a more interesting fight than to teleport a bunch of monsters.

 

The first room is particularly memorable all the same and sets the mood. The long elevators mark  particularly wel this level, which is deep in a huge cavern.

 

In short, a long and enjoyable adventure-oriented level.

 

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MAP31 - “Torrid Temple”

 

And so for the secret level, with an Egyptian theme (a theme I absolutely love, in no small part due to the fact that ancient Egypt in general has always interested me). The opening area is a relatively straightforward desert shootout.

 

And then for the usual fork, both YK and RK are needed, but in either order. I dabbled in a bit of both, first taking the RK area, with its fun but ultimately trivial imp trap, and then to clear out the monsters atop the absolutely fantastic desert pit. Like if there was one area I would say looks the best out of this mapset so far, it’s this one.

But I didn’t actually grab the RK, instead I went to the other fork. This contrasts well with the other area, with its dark and monstrous atmosphere. The hell knight trap here is again fun but as long as you have the rocket launcher equipped, also trivial.

 

So I return to the other area with both keys. Then I press the yellow switch and kill the 3 mancubi that spawned. And then I become very confused. The kill count says 174/174. But the way the RK area is set up, I know there are definitely going to be monsters. And of course, there were, with grabbing the RK getting the monster count up (in stages) to 251. The final encounter was okay, I’m just not sure why it didn’t say 251 monsters in the first place. Is it a setting in GZDoom?

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Map 31: "Torrid Temple" 


Egypt is not a surprise for the secret map. Overall this map is mostly rock solid (pun intended). The gothic Incan crypts are a pleasing aesthetic detour; dim lighting and polished design give it a very sexy look. Measured BFG usage in the giant crater fight will leave you a glut of cells, which are fantastically fun to waste in the yellow-key crypt's skirmishes on pistol start or are the notable material reward if you are playing continuously. After looking at the layout from the overhead, I was surprised how simple and modest it is. Often, as here, that means the map design gets the most out of its geometry -- using stuff like scale, architectural transformations, relative heights of areas, and 'implication' (darkness, sky horizons, stuff lurking just out of view of the playable space) to good effect. 

 

- An awkward moment happens after pressing the first switch. Imo either get rid of the imps or have them appear more advantageously -- on the rocky perches around the player, perhaps. The way they warp into the chokepoint one by one is dull and simply doesn't work.

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14 minutes ago, Horus said:

The final encounter was okay, I’m just not sure why it didn’t say 251 monsters in the first place. Is it a setting in GZDoom?

 

This happens when monsters are created mid-level by being 'spawned', instead of being preplaced in off-map closets and teleported in. I tend to view it as lazy when the end product is identical to closets. All it does is make the monster counter unreliable. But I can forgive it here because there are so many destination spots for all those imps and cacos that it feels different from a typical warp-in fight. One of the proper uses of spawning is Hexen-style variable/random monster creation. 

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Map 31 - Torrid Temple

 

alienated-rc2-wad-MAP31.png

 

Difficulty : Medium

 

I'm happy and at the same time sad to say that it's my favorite map for now, whether about gameplay or aesthetics. Sad because I think Lorenzo would have been more successful with the Alien/Desert theme. It's a secret map so it's the only map with this theme.  As mentioned above, we can find Inca themed textures in the map. The mixture is good, which makes the level very distinctive.

 

Anyway, the principle is always to survive a succession of not-so-difficult traps, but nevertheless dangerous when exploring the level for the first time. I am thinking of the floors that are lowering quickly, and in particular the pit filled with Hell-Knights near the yellow key, requiring a certain reactivity before being submerged.
The BFG is obtained in the most memorable area in my opinion: a large crater containing a key. It's my favorite part because it's fun and very slaughter-oriented without being too difficult.

 

Even if I found the previous levels rather visually attractive, I still prefer when a mapper uses more sober textures such as stone or rock textures, rather than bright and shiny textures at every turn. However, the alien theme is subtly added here thanks to a very moderate use of these coloured textures. In addition, I really liked the use of arches.

 

So , an excellent map set in a desert temple with a subtle integration of the alien theme and creative fights.

 

 

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+++ Mayhem 2018 Orange Edition (22 maps) , The Red Line by Didy (9 maps)

 

 

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MAP07 - “Twisted League”

 

A level that mixes the alien base style seen in the previous maps with an outdoors / water cave section. And a level that has a number of little frustrations, that on their own are minor, but add up to make what is for me the weakest map so far.

 

The MIDI starts off okay, but then becomes mildly irritating and tinny – it’s not like that MIDI in that MAYhem map, but it’s not great either.

 

The starting area is decent enough, and serves as a good warm-up. Then from a central base I took the path to the rocket launcher. Which launches a trap that I’m not sure really works. It’s a bunch of cacodemons that spawn from distance in the flashing box room, far away that it’s easy to miss with the rockets, and then some of them (but not others) spawn behind you. There’s no real challenge other than not wasting your ammo.

 

Then for the three keys, first for me was the YK area, which was definitely the easiest of the three keys here. As long as you’re not off guard with the revenants (in an area where it’s hard to dodge their rockets) you should be fine. The YK also doesn’t spawn any additional enemy firepower when you get it, it’s just there for the taking.

 

Second the BK area, which is definitely the map’s highlight. The outdoor section is well detailed with good enemy placement. Then once you enter the cave itself, grabbing the BK drops the arena down and triggers a fun cyber and hell knight battle, with the key getting the hell knights in between you and the cyber.

 

Finally the RK battle, where you need to make quick work of the chaingunners, then is otherwise not so bad. Once you get all three keys, the ending sections are just a sequence of somewhat disappointing mini-battles, with not really enough thrown at the player to really get the juices flowing. The last battle has a bit more heat, but is let down by an overabundance of sniping imps by the exit. The final frustration was that once you drop down to the exit area, you can’t go back up. I dropped down at 6% health, so I really could have done with being able to backtrack…

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MAP17: Naraka

DNF

 

I was enjoying this one for the most part up until the final fight. The first fight is a pretty good warm-up fight, might seem dangerous at first but plenty of room to move around and get the infighting going. The teeth crushers are hilarious and great design. The fight in the cathedral gave me a lot of trouble at first because after finally getting past the crushers the hitscanners all caught me by surprise and everything started streaming at me before I was really prepared. Toughest part by far was just clearing out the skeletons before getting overwhelmed (since the only weapon you can really use is the rocket launcher, and if they get too close, you'll blow yourself up). Once you've cleared out the skeletons and the imps start coming in the tough part's over. The yellow key fight also felt like limited room was the biggest threat, but pretty creative.

 

Now, the last arena... I had no idea what to do and started trying to fight the AVs by using the two 'stars' in the edges as cover, and that is definitely not the way to do it. Finally got far enough that I could hit the switches to let in some other enemies, but, still too many AVs in the open area. Had no clue until reading the comments here about the center protective circle... so, might want to try and come back to this, but pretty sure I saved over my save prior to that :(

 

Good looking map though with a lot of care put into the aesthetics and the combat designs, as I'd expect from the pair of authors. Only thing that stuck out is that it's possible to jump across some of the platforms at the start and fall 'outside' the map and see the bounding boxes, but that's minor.

 

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Map 07: Twisted League

alienated-rc2-wad-MAP07.png

 

Difficulty : Medium


Like map 06, Twisted League offers a rather long adventure with several keys to pick up in different areas. I'll be honest to say that I didn't like this map very much. Many things make this level not very memorable in my opinion.

 

To start with the positive, I really liked the bridges over the big river. I'm not a big fan of the zdoom port but I have to admit that this feature is very interesting compared to the classic Doom.

 

Apart from that, I found the overall realization rather bland. This is probably due to the overuse of greyish textures such as rocks or brick textures.

Likewise I had the bitter feeling that the placement of the monsters was not really thought about in relation to the layout. Horus had clearly highlighted the ease of the RL's trap with cacodemons. This is just one example among many. Some areas are far too easy or can be cleaned by simply "door camping".


Besides, it's sometimes a little messy, especially towards the beginning when I woke up a lot of monsters without knowing where they came from.
Anyway, I found that the cyber trap was the best built.

 

Like map 06, I think this level can be more appreciated in coops thanks to its large spaces and the possibility to explore many places.

 

In short, this level unfortunately did not convince me too much. A fairly large level focusing on exploration but with rather uninspired fights and a rather monotonous aestheticism.


 

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Alienated

 

Map 01 -- Sentient Asteroid - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets

Evidently a small alien base inside of a geologically 'living' asteroid, this introductory level seems to sit comfortably in familiar/conventional m01 territory without being overly beholden to a traditional m01 checklist of tropes or 'musts' (or 'must-nots', perhaps), which is generally a good sign. Apart from a couple of mancubi, a pair of revenants, and a few commandos at one point the base is defended by squads of former humans, gaggles of imps and a few packs of pinkies, to be combated chiefly with shotgun and chaingun -- all very 'episode 1' in that sense. Yet, from the moment the game begins, there's a heavy skew towards spacious arena-type chambers as the normative blueprint element of the level; there are a couple of hallways and a couple of small connecting rooms, but these are notable in their relative rarity. Having the first map of the game show such an arena focus (outside of the context of a slaughter or challenge-oriented set, which I don't see this billing itself as) is a surprisingly rare tack to take, and what might otherwise be very rote (or very 'classic', if you prefer) mob-swatting action gains the benefits of this openness from the word go, allowing the player to combine multiple waves or more actively stir up infighting or any number of other ways of playing which go a bit beyond simply shooting stuff that shows up in front of you.

 

Because it has as of yet been so rarely used in other projects, most of the AA-tex assets here still look quite fresh to me. The wet/watery outdoor areas read naturally enough with patches of lichen and such for additional color contrast against the scheme of blue/grey, and the generally utilitarian base architecture is supported by the vibrant neon/vaporwave color scheme of the pack, as well as small touches of subtle colored lighting and such (I mention this because, in my experience, sets that go in for colored lighting rarely use it *subtly*) to elevate it a step beyond the basic, though at this point I'd warrant it's really only a step -- AAtex aside, the look here reminds me heavily of the visual style of Simplicity (albeit on a larger scale), generally a clean, 'safe' all-purpose look that adapts more or less neatly to a variety of thematic templates, but needs a really strong sense of scene composition to look really striking. I wouldn't say we're seeing that yet, and the heavily divergent aesthetic of the two branches after the dropdown dilutes the base's style rather than underwriting it, but it's early days yet.

 

Minor issue: if you slip out of the soulsphere fight, all of the enemies which port in after you leave are deaf/inactive and thus will not only not pursue you, but also clog the destination spot and prevent anything else from the group appearing.

 

Map 02 -- Hidden Base - 100% Kills / 50% Secrets

Aesthetically much sharper! A cold, clear, and very crisp 'lithic-tech' base/bunker setting, a stark base of sealed concrete and stone shot through with highlights of blazing chrome and steely aqua-blues. Simpler, but much more decisive, and for that reason a lot stronger thematically than the 'bit of this, bit of that' approach of the previous map. Slopes and spots of colored lighting are also used effectively alongside more classic idtech1 detail techniques (bars and bands of 'rod' detailing on the ceilings, grooved/inset layers of trim, sheets of liquidfall midtex, etc.) to create a more complete and finished presentation that allows architecture, scale, and texture selections to define the look, rather than relying on individually striking assets or port/renderer features to carry the load (which seldom works really convincingly). The nature of the gameplay design also betokens some attractive circle or 'scale' designs in the geometry, most noticeable on the automap.

 

After the initial set of short but violent scuffles in the opening area, the gameplay design moves away somewhat from looser/relatively freeform arenas and towards a selection of conceptual setpieces, the most entertaining of these being the RL 'shooting gallery' segment at the east end. The SSG also debuts in a ratrun setpiece which tests basic player knowledge of how to use it (i.e. you should use its heavy burst damage to punch through to one end of the alley where you can hole up and funnel the rest of the enemies to you, rather than being passive and getting eaten alive trying to hold the middle), and even the chainsaw has a few subtler opportunities to shine providing you're the sort of player willing to show it some affection. The more self-contained nature of these setpieces combined with a potentially slightly 'grindy' opening foray (lots of shotgunning revenants, cacos, and knights, realistically) makes this more of a mid-paced affair than its rather small size may suggest, though map/secret knowledge plus the potential to use the RL for other (optional) encounters combats this somewhat.

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So right now we have four votes, each for something different ... something needs 4 votes for itself a thread to be made by dobu :)

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Map 07: "Twisted League" 

 

One of the rare maps where freeform incidental combat features so prominently. Once outside, your path forks in several directions, and some assortment of monsters is planted or lurking just about everywhere to keep you off balance. I most enjoyed running past the introductory fodder, not even stopping for a shotgun, and straight for the SSG. A fun brawl breaks out after this, once the barriers of the trap lower.

 

A lot of the action is fine and dandy but there are a couple of headscratchers: 

 

- The lock-in at the rocket launcher, for five cacodemons. I don't get that, really. I guess maybe if you play the map in the more straightforward manner and head to the RL before dropping off, there are also some monsters outside with line of sight that will also join in. But drop down first and access the RL via the lift, and you get a lock-in for just five cacos, which looks ridiculous, and perhaps also as if something broke and another set of monsters didn't warp in. That fight needs to be more 'robust' against alternative paths. 


- The 'blue area' fight. So, generally I find the way this mapset uses motley gasbag crews -- a gang of cacos with up to a few PEs mixed in -- uninspired. I've played some sets that once in a while deploy, with no other support, 'cinematic' gasbag-only groups that pose little threat but add value in other ways (usually by being visually striking). In Alienated, it happens quite a lot (I counted seven times in nine maps), but they work maybe twice (m03 and m04), which not coincidentally is when other monsters are around. It reads very strongly as the set's go-to 'I want a short skirmish/fight but I have no better ideas for this' deployment. In this fight, we get those, and nothing else, which is very odd. (And again, I was left to wonder if a whole contingent of monsters failed to show.) 

 

Aesthetically, this is okay, but the long curving tunnels look very drab from side profile. 

Also, I loved the archvile reveal near the very end. You can rush it down with plasma, but a more protracted battle is thrilling -- the barriers around the pillars force you to play thoughtful hide-and-seek since you can't dip into hiding at leisure.

 

Map 08: "Soul Over Gun"


An understated map that knows what it wants to do, and (mostly) does it well.

 

1) Possibilities for stirring up infighting among mid-tiers feel deliberate. Soon after the map starts, you can go outside and get everything riled up, including the cacodemons in the start room, which join the fray in short order. This time, by the time the kill count read 21, I had only actually killed one monster. Quite fun. Infighting is easy to bring about but not safe or automatic. You still have to stay awake, basically; the crossfire, or dangerous monsters such as revenants, can quickly end you if you're sloppy. This is revisited in the curvy blue-marble arena; with some skillful maneuvering, a lot of those monsters can be made to fight.

 

2) Those cuboid 'highlight' sequences are a nice visual motif. If you use the proper lighting mode (software), the darkness is total, so there is an element of remembering what lights up or following the lights quickly in order to traverse efficiently, whatever suits your tastes. This is never truly challenging, but adds welcome flavor and novelty. 


3) The architecture is usually very squarebound, but this is one of the better looking maps in the set. Walls and surfaces are composed well -- competently assembled out of multiple layers or panels. Color is intermixed more freely than usual, and to striking effect.

 

The final area does the 'motley gasbag' crew thing yet again. I guess you can tactically hide from the PE until the very end this time, which adds a wrinkle, but considering ammo balance, that doesn't matter much, and it feels more incidental than anything. The last fight plays decently, but feels insubstantial. It's also not very exciting if you hang at the back and let everything funnel towards you in one direction. Putting that all together, I think it's logical to release the gasbags as part of the final fight. A purely silent buildup in this area would work perfectly too. Apart from this, good map. 

Edited by rdwpa

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MAP08 - “Soul Over Gun”

 

This map is definitely the ‘low key’ one of the episode. A low monster count, with the beginning only being tense thanks to my low health from the last map. A green opening area gives way for a green outdoors. Picking up the plasma rifle spawns a bunch of stuff but nothing that really hurts you as you can just stay round the corner and peek out if you need to.

 

Then for a ‘follow the lights’ puzzle that the first time round is just you finding your way, then the second time spawns monsters too. The baron surprised me and caused me to drop off and kill myself with the rocket launcher. Oh dear lol. The final battle is set up for something big but is really just 3 arch viles and 3 arachnotrons. Run to the other side of the arena from the switch then it’s easy.

 

It’s okay, but feels like the appetizer for the main course that’s about to (hopefully) come from the finale.

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2 hours ago, Capellan said:

So right now we have four votes, each for something different ... something needs 4 votes for itself a thread to be made by dobu :)

 

I'd normally be more flexible but next month I won't be Dooming from the 13th of the month onwards, so I picked something I could finish in the first 12 days (but I'd still post on DWMC timelines)

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1 hour ago, Horus said:

 

I'd normally be more flexible but next month I won't be Dooming from the 13th of the month onwards, so I picked something I could finish in the first 12 days (but I'd still post on DWMC timelines)

 

My intended point was "please vote if you haven't (and intend to play what you vote for)" rather than "please change your votes" :)

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On to Alienated for a bit...

 

MAP01: Sentient Asteroid

100% kills, 1/1 secret

 

Bright snazzy colors! Pistol and chaingun that feel really slow after Mayhem! Heh.

 

This one's an okay opener. It avoids the usual opening-map rut of only having the player fight small fry, but there's still a lack of higher-tier weaponry and the fights are pretty ho-hum. Enemies are almost always in front of the player in a large area (which makes it really easy to avoid their fire) or placed on boxes where they can't do much except serve as turrets. The only fight that really gave me any pause was the rev/manc flank near the end. Most of it feels like busy work to be honest. At least it's nice and colorful to look at... though maybe a bit too colorful, to be honest. Will have to see how the rest plays out.

 

MAP02: Hidden Base

100% kills, 1/2 secrets

 

Hmm, looks like this uses GZDoom stuff to teleport monsters so can't rely on the monster counter here...

 

Knowing that you'll be re-using the first room for a bit helps make things more interesting if you just run ahead and hit the switches and get everything infighting, as it is a bit blah to clear everything out with just the shotgun/chaingun. The baron pincer trap is nice, especially if it catches you off guard and forces you up towards the hell revenants, but it's also easy to disarm from the last circular platform if you know it's coming. The RL setpiece is nice and just the right length. Got a lot of UT99 vibe from this map.

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Map 08 "Soul over gun"

 

alienated-rc2-wad-MAP08.png

 

 

 Difficulty : Medium

 

A level characterized by a low number of enemies and a very square architecture on a large part of the map as explained by rdwpa, but on the other hand of good quality especially compared to the previous one.

 

The beginning of map 08 gives the illusion that we are going to go through a map with a dominant green color, but exploring further we realize that it stays multicolored just like the other levels.

 

The difficulty is not extremely high but I found the traps more challenging than the previous maps. At the last trap, the player can very easily be destroyed by the arch-viles if he remains stashed in the place where the switch is located. Apart from that, Lorenzo offers a rather tense fight with a cyberdemon and some pain elemental. It is better to create infight but it is not very easy, especially when the projectiles do not pass through the things on gzdoom.

 

In any case, different areas are separated by passages partially hidden by darkness. You must follow the light indicating the path before it disappears. I didn't really understand the interest of this passage knowing that I could see without light but it is still memorable anyways.

In short, a solid level with few but well placed monsters.

 

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Map 03 -- Seatooth - 99% Kills / 66% Secrets

The arena-focused nature of the mapset's design is more clear here than ever before: at the beginning, the level is framed as a non-linear three-key scavenger hunt, and while it is indeed such a scheme in the simplest of senses, this amounts to three separate fights (or three and a half if you want to count the little 'hanging gazebo' encounter that precedes the teleporter to the exit area) and very little else. These can indeed be played in any order you like -- if I recall correctly, in my game I ended up doing the RK 'blind alley' fight (and then traveling ineffectually to the exit area) first, then the YK fight in the large/dark green chamber, and then the BK/crusher gallery battle last -- though since you are provided your full kit at the outset of the map, these function basically in a vacuum, rather than playing off of each other in different ways depending on the order you tackle them in. There's also a really notable largess of ammo, armor, and spheres in general, all through the level, giving proceedings a very empowering (and, some might say, surprisingly easy) lean overall.

 

Of the three, about half of the rather brief RK path is entertaining -- my approach to the blind alley was to hang in an alcove on the righthand side of the alley, chopping down imps 3-4 at a time with SSG blasts, occasionally swinging out for a shot at one of the mancubi before they get too far down the hall (it's only wide enough for one of them at a time what with all the imps about, fortunately) -- but the hanging gazebo bit struck me as awkward and didn't really read right, since the thin iron suspension poles prevent much clean fire from coming out of or going into them, save meaningless little zombie popgun shots. The YK and BK fights, in contrast, are both quite entertaining, and seem conceptually linked on some level in that both stage a central 'core' of threat which you're empowered to wipe out early on with extreme prejudice, with huge hordes of imps sweeping in from the flanks to provide violent emphasis (and to complicate matters for players who take too long or immediately respond to the fights by trying to flee). Since the overall ammo balance is very rocket-oriented, particularly in the green arena, this makes for lots of satisfying guts & gore bonanzas.

 

A minor oddity: as aforesaid, the full kit for the level is provided, no strings attached, right at the beginning, but the backpack is conspicuously not part of the pile. Instead, it sits in a random corner in one of the pair of hallways leading into the large green chamber; as such, it's also technically available right from the beginning, and can be taken without consequence of any kind. This handling of the item, which is entirely route/chance dependent in a sense but also has literally no aspect of risk/reward attached is very strange to me. Since the level swings so heavily towards empowerment in general, I don't understand why the backpack is kept back in this way; if it's supposed to be tied expressly to the YK setpiece (where it is indeed more notably convenient to have), why is it just in this one hallway (which was the one I used to *exit* rather than to *enter*, incidentally), rather than copied in both, or found near the switch which starts the encounter or such? Oddly enough, this kind of weirdly "random" backpack placement seems to be a recurring element in later maps, as well, suggesting it's a quirk of design particular to the author or set.

 

Map 04 -- Flower Cave - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets

Something of a 1-2, 1-2 rhythm is becoming apparent in the set, as now we shift back away from larger arenas (though the BK cave still qualifies as such I guess) to smaller, more conceptual setpiece encounters taking place in more enclosed surroundings, ala m02 from earlier. Once again, the level begins in a hub with various branches you can explore in whatever order suits you; the ultimate goal is to find the yellow and blue skull keys, which each grant access to a switch needed to complete half of the exit sequence in the final chamber (which can be seen/entered with just one of the pair). Proceedings are fairly straightforward in that the different paths are very short and rapidly terminate in the keys, though there is one notable optional branch you can take for a plasma rifle, as well as some smaller subsidiary halls it's possible to simply ignore, meaning that the order in which you tackle the different challenges is more relevant to the overall experience than in m03 prior. Healing is notably scarcer than in any previous map, communicating some sense of upped stakes and asking for cleaner play in some slightly trickier scenarios. Also some strange backpack placement again, incidentally, though this time it does have a booby-trap attached!

 

Of the fights, the sudden pitfall trap en route to the YK is the most effective, using lots of knights and some others on interference in an already small space half covered in poisonous ooze, reducing footing further and making exercising spatial control of the room more complex (it also helps that the two 'decoy' knights at the end of the trapped tunnel likely baited you into having the RL equipped at the moment the trap springs, which requires some quick thinking/reflexes to say the least). The BK cave plays for spectacle but is less remarkable, since the bounty of radsuits and ammo trivialize the potential impact of the ooze in that area, making it a simple circle-strafe fight. As for the exit chamber, well.....it seems to me that this area is unfinished or something, I'm not sure what it's really going for. There are various enemies with powerful attacks covering a variety of angles of fire -- arachnatrons, arch-viles in little wall-nooks, and of course the cyberdemon at the center -- but none of these angles are complementary in any sense, so it's a question of routinely clearing the enemies one at a time with the great surfeit of ammo you've likely amassed by that point. I feel like the really limp 'ambushes' tied to the two switchpresses should've had much more dangerous consequences, or something.

 

Aesthetically, I have to admit that I don't care for this much at all, personally. Mostly anonymous ooze-caves with little in the way of grand spaces or interesting formations or anything like that, basically a map which feels like it's made entirely of minor connective areas with very little in the way 'main chambers.' It is very much a map where the texture assets are left to do the lion's share of the work (vs. geometry/topography or layout), and while I do like the deep purple as a base color the persistent appearance of red and green in bands makes the whole scheme look garishly 'plastic' to me, the overall impression being you're a tiny little person running around amidst those 'ring toy' stacks that some folks use for babies and very young children. The recolored computer/tech padding textures treated as flats for the 'leaves' of the flowers are also just plain *gross*, man.

 

 

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Map 09: "Ascension" 

 

The finale is huge, and the first half of this map is a good map. Design ideologies introduced prior are evident, lots of color coding and highlight-on-neutral banding. Appeal comes less from any one style and more from change-ups throughout. Every color in the rainbow is used least once, and in a way, the indoor stretches read like a guided tour of various highlight-fueled aesthetics, like one of those credits maps that walks you through showpieces of a mapset. I thought most of it looked decent, naturally for different reasons throughout, although the northern cyber overseer section is markedly bare without the luxury of void or darkness to cloak it. Combat is varied and fun and flexible. This time I skipped most of the outdoor stuff, which includes all the cacodemons. Those ended up joining me in the cyber hallway fight, and of course I had left the cyber alive too, so it organically became a very chaotic scrap of my own making.

 

But that is the first half. Unfortunately the rest is downhill. The issue is the difficulty and intensity curve refuses to ramp up. I'd emphasize the 'intensity' part is more important than the 'difficulty' part. 

 

- Upon hitting both key switches, you given all of two cybs, two viles, and a tiny fleet of gasbags to keep you busy in that enormous space. 

 

- Up next, you visit a sparsely populated canyon. The player has quite the glut of rockets and cells, I would have liked some 'satisfaction carnage', a few BFG shots or rocket volleys' worth of low-tier fodder to blow to pulp...  

 

-or- 

 

... more involved platforming in the section after that. Because you run a short distance to a cubby and are done with it. That's it. Also of note: freelook is recommended by the author, and freelook allows you to hose down the mastermind with plasma from the safety of distance. 

 

[I said 'or' because pacing is such that both are hardly necessary, I'd argue.]

 

- And the last grand area, which had the potential to redeem, felt like a lazily balanced HNTR. The switchquest to get inside is fine enough structurally, but where are the threatening monsters, where is the pressure? The indoor fight in the central structure isn't the grand multi-phase fight literally everything in the mapset would have led me to expect. It's a throwaway popup that reads more like 'exit-cubby pinky' on a larger scale. 

 

The potential is there for a very good map. Shoring the ending up would go a long way, and is extra important since it is the set's send-off.  

 

Overall Thoughts

 

Alienated shows a significant leap in the author's design abilities. The gameplay is enjoyable (a lot) more often than it is irritating, and polished and attractive (a fair bit) more often than it is bland. What I haven't yet touched upon is how Alienated makes use of Z-features, yet blends them in seamlessly, especially the aesthetic ones, with a core that is Boom at heart. That is no small feat. Many try and fail, here it is handled with artistic maturity. 

 

Areas of improvement? The biggest systematic flaw is that occasionally, an important fight or area feels lazy or half-baked, like it is missing something. Alienated has plenty of cool ideas throughout, especially for cinematic flair, so I don't suspect a rushjob in the mapping process. More likely is the author hasn't had the time away yet to peer at the set through the lens of objectivity. With critical distance, it becomes much easier to put a finger on what is weak or rough.

 

Edit: DotW in his m06 writeup also brings up a good point of underwhelming exits. While I found only m09's to be a serious letdown, yeah, it's kind of a thing.

 

Favorite maps (in mapslot order): 

 

Map 06: "Clash" 

Map 09: "Ascension" 

Map 31: "Torrid Temple" 

 

Edited by rdwpa

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Map 05 -- Acid Flow - 100% Kills / 85% Secrets

(I wish I had found this chainsaw secret...)

 

A large alien-industrial plant of some sort situated on a river of corrosive purple sludge, this level has something of a more dark, dismal, and threatening look to it, though in practice I felt it actually read like a somewhat softer version of the map just prior (softer mainly because there's a lot more healing available here). Again, the player collects most of their armaments and a good stock of ammo in the starting chamber (the plasma gun is available shortly thereafter, when the player first reaches this level's hub proper), and again, the goal is to pick from a pair of paths leading off of the upstairs junction to collect a duo of keys (red and blue this time) which opens the way to a teleporter array out in the titular Flow. I think the backpack is actually secret this time...?

 

The starting chamber is a simple runaround, and offers some entertainment value in that it's good fun to see the corpses of the imps on the perched sectors scatter dramatically all over the room if you're able to land a rocket dead-center in their midst from ground level. If you immediately ascend on one of the pumping platforms, the gantries (3D floors) which form a web across the room's upper level also make for a surprisingly effective combat aid, as they allow you to flank and re-enter the ground level fray with near total impunity -- enough so that the room probably could've comfortably been made a lot more dangerous than it is, though the author seems to be aiming for a slow start instead, and it's questionable how many players would think to try coming up here early in the fight.

 

Of the split paths, it's somewhat surprising (though not a bad thing, mind) that neither quite develops into an arena this time, though some might argue that the BK 'crossfire' rig qualifies as one. This area demonstrates the ongoing user-friendliness of the WAD, incidentally -- it seems to be designed for you to run out into the midst of things, and indeed it plays best that way, but you can also gradually snipe your way through it from the area's entrance (knights sometimes teleport to the beginning of the hall, but they aren't strong enough to be effective pushers against most players) in more or less total safety, save for the occasional lucky plink from one of the former troopers. The later phase, when the BK is actually taken, can be handled similarly, by retreating to the earlier part of the rig. While the playability of this design is still fine in the sense that it functions well enough if you do play it aggressively, I reckon it's a good example of an encounter where it would've been appropriate to insist more strongly on this approach (via a lock-in or a stronger push from the entrance or such) than the author here does; sometimes turtles have to be coaxed out of their shells if they're ever going to live a little.

 

The other path's a bit of cave-spelunking with a small fight on an elevated platform which seems to really want you to use the berserk powerup to fight the teams of specters, though the powerup being placed at the start of the room, all of 2 seconds away from you entering the sights of some chaingunner and revenant sniper-teams on platforms which the player can't directly reach rather undermines this to some degree, and discourages one from what might otherwise be a fun fisting-spree, hurling the imps from the rocks en route to the platform and such. I guess this is in some ways the converse to my criticism of the other path -- sometimes it's okay (or better) to have low-risk fun for the sake of it, rather than muddying the waters with some kind of minimum 'threat calculus.'

 

The encounters after the duo-locked door are more or less a non-event, once again, interestingly/oddly. I also didn't correctly interpret where the level's exit point was going to be this time, else I might have gone back to find that chainsaw!

 

Map 06 -- Clash - 99% Kills / 100% Secrets

(I think there was a set of monsters somewhere which simply failed to trigger, but I can't tell where it is in GZDoom's janky automap)

 

Again, this is the same scheme/pattern as the past couple of maps -- a hub where you start, a pair of branching paths each leading to a key, both of which are needed to access the final/exit path -- though the delivery is much more dramatic throughout, and kind of like m02/m03 this gives the impression of being built later or having more care put into it than the comparative roughness of maps 01, 04, and 05.

 

Strangely, the first fight in the hub is dangerous (from pistol-start) in a way that this mapset seldom has been, simply because if you move aggressively the initial blanket of hitscan attrition is witheringly strong, especially at the top of the broad sweeping stairs. As a longer level than anything prior, "Clash" also introduces the weapons more gradually (the rocket launcher and plasma gun are tied to two branching paths, and the SSG is gated behind the initial round of fights in the hub), so you can't necessarily simply steamroll from the get-go. This initial hostility contrasts with utter silence later on; you return to the hub at the end of each of the key paths through a different/special entrance, but no repopulation or ambush of any kind is ever forthcoming, which seems odd given what a large and vibrantly detailed space the hub is.

 

The two key paths have their own particular identities, in line with the different weapons they introduce. Neither quite fits the previous mould of small, highly conceptual fights, in line, perhaps, with the generally much expanded scope and scale of the level as a whole. Instead, the blue path (which introduces the plasma gun) begins with a cyber-turret setpiece that is basically a moshpit, although a somewhat PG-rated one since the cyb does not enjoy a particularly wide field of fire, and most of the bodies involved are imps and demons, who melt like butter in front of a hot stream of plasma. The path continues for some time after this, sliding into a subtle theme of clearing glossy, superhitech base rooms and then tangoing with arch-viles who appear in them (sometimes suddenly, sometimes telegraphed far in advance), having to improvise for cover and angles. It's not really flashy, but it is smartly designed, for the most part, though again there's a certain careful (perhaps slightly too careful?) restraint in never asking you to deal with too much at once, unless you're really bullheadedly rushing for the sake of it, I suppose.

 

The yellow path is a pair of large caverns (the first in particular is perhaps the largest single space in the set thus far) with walkways suspended over lava, designed for hurling rockets with wild abandon while a technicolor cloud of varying monster projectiles lights up the air. In contrast to the more measured pace of the blue path, this one seems more or less designed to be rushed through, and it occurs to me that it's probably fairly easy to leave the whole area without firing a shot once you know where you're going, though the action is enjoyable enough that only curmudgeons and speedrunners would probably want to actually do this.

 

As for the exit, well......I played this map and m05 prior back-to-back, then went outside to shovel snow (for some fresh air and because it needed to be done), and now I'm sitting here writing this and I can't for the life of me remember what happens in the exit branch here (other than that the secret exit is guarded by Tommy the Trooper!), which I think at this point is fitting into a pattern of rather underwhelming exits for the mapset. I'm becoming increasingly inclined to attribute this not so much to a lack of ideas as to a certain hesitation in being too mean to the player -- not wanting to put a roadblock at the end of a series of already large battles, something like that -- but I've selected Ultraviolence! Hurt me more, dammit!

 

 

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MAP09 - “Ascension”

 

And so for the main course. It’s really long as rdwpa said. And with it comes a seemingly inevitable variability in quality. The opening scene is okay, just picking off small fry in a large expanse that takes just a tad too long.

 

Then the main building with a pretty purple liquid centre. At the end of that platform the red diamond texture looked like a switch-type texture but it wasn’t. I took the lift down and into the door down below where a couple of mini-battles ensue. For each of them you can see exactly what you are getting as they are behind an invisible wall. Which also makes them trivial. Then I missed the switch to the YK area, so I went back up the lift (which is very quick, it’s easy to miss the strafe back up) and into the door to the RK area.

 

The RK area is merciful in that you can kill the cyberdemon before triggering the main battle. Which still isn’t easy, thanks to the plethora of chaingunners and hell knights. That leads to a nicely presented room with a series of flashing green platforms, comparable to that seen in the previous map except on a bigger scale.

Another tough battle awaits, but it’s an enjoyable one, with enough BFG ammo to help you a little bit but I ran out well before the end necessitating careful use of the rocket launcher.

 

Then I was very stuck, and had to load up GZDoom Builder to work out where to go next. And it turns out I missed a switch in the second battle to the YK area. Probably me being a bit blind lol.

 

The YK battle is another toughie, and another one where the map’s careful rationing of plasma helps the battle. I only got one BFG shot to clear the pain elemental and a few cacos. Then focusing on killing the revenants as they spawned with the RL.

 

And it looks like my view aligns with @rdwpa here as this is where the map starts to go a bit wrong. Firstly, I found a softlock (screenshot below). Then the battle after triggering the YK and RK. This is why the plasma rationing hurts the battle because it just turns into a grind. There’s enough to clear the archies and cybers, the rest is just grinding out.

 

And the rest of the map follows a similar theme, with the remaining battles pretty easy on paper, with the only challenge coming from the sparse ammo. I was almost completely out when I hit the spider mastermind.

 

Then when you take the lift to the penultimate arena, it’s just a mass of imps with a few other monsters. Totally non-threatening and again just a grind. The final battle is also very easy if you focus your BFG on the pain elementals. It is almost like the mapper is afraid to ramp up the difficulty.

 

So there are certainly a bunch of good things about this map but it still feels a bit disappointing as the finale.

Screenshot_Doom_20191029_193844.png

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Overall

 

Well, @Lorenz0 has put out there a pretty good wad based on the Ancient Aliens textures, and makes me look forward to actually playing Ancient Aliens itself. I think a comment @Roofi made that the mapset focuses more on aesthetics than gameplay hits the nail on the head here. Which is not to say the gameplay is bad, not at all. There are no duds in this wad, the worst map is at least decent. But like rdwpa said, there are a number of battles that just don’t seem to be fully thought out. And I wish lorenz0 would have turned up the difficulty towards the end of each of the last few maps because I think they would have really benefited from it. As it is, I prefer the first half to the last half.

 

Aesthetically this mapset is beautiful. Seatooth and Acid Flow especially are fantastic in this regard (those two are also my favourites). I really appreciate the effort lorenz0 has put here.

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Map 09 : Ascension

 

alienated-rc2-wad-MAP09.png

 

Difficulty : Medium


You have to go to the very end of the level to understand the map title. The title and the very beginning of the map could suggest that we are going to climb a kind of mountain in the style of Hell Revealed 2 map 29, but actually not at all. In any case, it is a good level  with a significant length.

 

I'm relieved that Lorenzo didn't put a stupid Icon of sin , but I was expecting a better final. As rdwpa said, the latter areas look like vaguely balanced arenas for HNTR. In other words, you never see the difficulty increase at least a little bit in order to make the player understand that he is coming to the end.

 

Anyway, this level consists of a long walk in very different coloured areas (I keep repeating it). Also, I join in what rdwpa says about freelook. I don't really have the impression that it's that necessary, or even that it makes monsters almost ineffective (ex: the Mastermind spider near the platforms, or the cyberdemon that you can telefrag).

 

There are many monsters but blue armors and soulspheres are numerous and especially all the weapons including the BFG are available at the beginning of the level like a classic IOS map. This is not an extremely relevant choice because it makes combats too easy. I probably would have put the BFG in a secret...

 

In short, a good level focusing on exploration and wide open spaces. On the other hand, the difficulty curve doesn't really change and you don't feel like you're playing a last map.

 

My opinion on the wad

 

I'm not a big gzdoom fan but I really enjoyed playing this wad. Lorenzo made a good tribute to Ancient Aliens. On the other hand, it is not excellent for me. I think Lorenzo can always improve on the different aspects, such as the gameplay and aesthetics. Let me explain.

 

The levels are generally beautiful with a rather high level of detail. On the other hand, I find that many maps lack cohesion in terms of texture choice or architecture. Often,  his mapping consists to create radically different rooms separated by passages. I'm not necessarily against the idea, but it doesn't help to make the level unique. Regarding this wad, I am more likely to remember the appearance of some rooms and not entire levels. I find that maps 02 and 31 are the two maps that manage to keep a certain harmony while offering memorable areas.

Similarly, like many gzdoom mappers, the temptation to over-detail is sometimes quite present (example: beginning of map 15) but it tends to pollute the progression more than anything else.

 

I think Lorenzo could think more about the map theme than about detailing.

 

The gameplay is nice. It's fun with a lot of exploration. I'm sure the wad has even more potential in coop. On the other hand, I had already said it before but I think a lot more work has been brought in the graphics than the gameplay. I don't think the gameplay is bad far from it, but we often find ourselves with rather simplistic traps in their execution or ambushes which can be cheesed by doorcamping.  I understand the purpose of not making levels too punitive, but sometimes I often had the impression that the traps were not very well thought out or rather in adequacy with the layout. On the other hand, I think that the freelook gives the player too much advantage by giving him the possibility to kill monsters that are normally unreachable on a more "classic" port such as prboom.

I'm not going to develop more than that, but if I gave it a score, I would give it 7/10.

 

Favorite map :

Map 31 "Torrid Temple".

 

 

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Thank you all for playing, I'm glad to see you had an enjoyable experience with my wad, despite its flaws. I've been aware of some of them before, like the repetitivness of map layouts, or certain fights lacking in quality. Reworking huge portions of a map or even the whole map would be necessary in some cases to get rid of certain problems, so I won't be touching those, but I'll do my best to fix smaller issues, like removing the rocket launcher fight in map07.

 

The process of making Alienated was also the process of me getting good as a mapper, so some of my earlier levels can be very inconsistent, or filled with weird design choices. Still, I consider even the worst ones to be ''at least decent'' like Horus said, so I decided to include them.

 

Not being able to stick to one theme is definitely a huge fault of mine, aa-tex is such a varied texture pack, that I just wanted to try everything, but I guess it might feel a bit jarring to see many strong contrasts between individual rooms. I'll try to plan my future projects more carefully in that regard.

 

Same with gameplay in general. Sometimes I have a fight in mind while designing an area, but in other cases I focus on the visuals first, and fill it with monsters later. That might be the reason why the end of map09 turned out to be so lacking. I'll try to make it better, somehow.

 

I'll probably get around to polishing the wad later in november, so when the time comes, I'll be sure to go back to this thread and read through your critiques once again.

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+++ Plutonium Winds

+++ Master Levels

 

Because it is seemingly the only thing with a chance of winning and I want to make sure something crosses the four vote threshold. @dobu gabu maru if this wins, it would make sense to begin with Plutonium Winds, as it is far more convenient to attain and play.

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